Papers and correspondence of Leonard Rotherham (1913-2001), physicist and metallurgist

Scope and Content

There is a small amount of biographical material relating to various aspects of Rotherham's career. It includes correspondence and papers concerning Rotherham's appointments at Brown-Firth, the UKAEA and the CEGB, his membership of professional societies and organisations, and documentation, in photographic form, relating to his career, 1957-1967. There are notebooks from his years as undergraduate and postgraduate student at University College London, off-prints of his published papers, 1942-1967, and correspondence and papers relating to the British Fast Reactor Project, 1975-1976. There is a good record of lectures, speeches and talks given by Rotherham as Director of Research, UKAEA, Member for Research, CEGB, President of the Institution of Metallurgists and the President of the Institute of Metals. Conferences and meetings attended by Rotherham are documented, 1956-1969, including two Royal Society Discussion Meetings, on heavy section steel structures and advanced methods of energy conversion which he organised and chaired in 1964 and 1965. Service on a number of advisory bodies is also documented, especially the University Grants Committee Technology Sub-Committee, ten years from 1961, and the Central Advisory Council for Science and Technology, 1968-1970. The surviving correspondence is not extensive but covers the period 1952-1990.

Administrative / Biographical History

Leonard Rotherham was born on 31 August 1913. He was educated at the Herbert Strutt School, Belper, Derbyshire and won a Derby County Major Scholarship as well as a state scholarship to attend University College London, where he obtained a first class degree in physics with subsidiary mathematics. In 1935 he received an M.Sc. from the same institution for research on the viscosity of liquids carried out under the supervision of Professor E. N. da C. Andrade.

Rotherham's first industrial appointment was at the Brown-Firth Research Laboratories in Sheffield, where he conducted work on the physical and mechanical properties of metals with particular reference to magnetism, fatigue and creep. By 1939 the laboratories under Rotherham's direct control constituted half of all the Brown-Firth research facilities. Rotherham's own research centred on the development of creep resistant materials. During World War II this area of study gained additional importance through its contribution to the evolution of jet propulsion engines and Rotherham was personally concerned with the manufacture of the special materials which went into the production of the experimental Whittle engines. He also had special responsibilities for the monitoring and development of shells and armour manufacture. After eleven years in Sheffield Rotherham became head of the Metallurgy Department at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough, Hampshire. He initiated new programmes of research on the extraction and characteristics of titanium, the corrosion behaviour and high-temperature properties of aircraft structural materials and the fatigue and creep of metals. After four years he left to take up a new post with the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), Industrial Group, Risley, Cheshire.

As Director of Research at the UKAEA Rotherham set up and oversaw the large organisation which was responsible for almost all the metallurgical work involved in the design, installation and maintenance of the Calder Hall and Dounreay nuclear reactors. He left the UKAEA in 1958 to become the Member for Research of the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB). At the CEGB Rotherham renewed his working association with Christopher Hinton, later Lord Hinton of Bankside. Hinton was Managing Director of the UKAEA, Industrial Group between 1954 and 1957. His departure to become Chairman of the CEGB preceded Rotherham's own transfer to that organisation by a year. In 1966 Hinton was appointed Chancellor of the newly established Bath University of Technology (later the University of Bath) and in 1969 Rotherham joined him as the institution's second Vice-Chancellor. He remained in this position until his retirement in 1976.

Rotherham was elected FRS in 1963 and became a Founder Fellow of the Fellowship of Engineering in 1976. He was President of the Institution of Metallurgists, 1964 and the Institute of Metals, 1965. He served on the Defence Scientific Advisory Council, 1967-1977, the Central Advisory Council for Science and Technology, 1968-1970, and the Advisory Council for Applied Research and Development, 1976-1981. He died on 23 March 2001.


By section as follows: Biographical, Research, Publications, Lectures and speeches, Visits and conferences, Societies and organisations, Correspondence. Index of correspondents.

Access Information

Open for use by researchers. Personal identification required. Please contact:

The Archivist The Library University of Bath Claverton Down Bath BA2 7AY


Telephone: +44 (0)1225 383464

Other Finding Aids

A catalogue (ref: 98/3/01), prepared by the National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists (NCUACS) is available online in PDF format.

Conditions Governing Use

Enquiries should be made in the first instance to :

The Archivist The Library University of Bath Claverton Down Bath BA2 7AY


Telephone: +44 (0)1225 383464

Custodial History

An original deposit of material by Rotherham in the University of Bath archives was supplemented in December 1999 by papers received from his son, Mr Miles Rotherham. The papers were catalogued by the National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists.